Modern Day First Fruits

On January 8, 2018 my daughter and I climbed into our car and headed east.  I was making  the 1100 mile round trip to Philadelphia and back one last time to drop her off for her last semester of college at Penn.  I was proud of myself because I could finally make the trip without turning on my GPS and most of the time I had a good idea of where I was at.   What should’ve been a forgettable journey turned into an unforgettable 48 hours with valuable lessons learned.
We were leaving this time with an extra day to spare since my daughter wanted to be there a day early.  I would’ve preferred to wait a day since we were following a storm but since we were not in a rush and could take our time I agreed to head out after the storm.  We left at 2:30pm which meant if we drove straight through only stopping for gas and eating in the car we would get there around midnight barring any unforeseen complications. I’ve also learned that arriving late can be easier and cheaper since you can avoid the tolls without it costing you time in traffic.
I let my daughter start off driving for the first 3 hours till we reached the Pennsylvania border and then I took over. I was about half way down 80 when the roads began to get really icy and the trucks became obnoxious. If you’ve never driven up and down the hills in PA with a bunch of trucks then think of it as playing leap frog with semi’s, but every time you go to pass a string of them one jumps into your lane going about 20 miles slower than you. It then takes them sometimes 3 miles to pass before moving back to the right. Now when the roads are icy like they were this night I try to leave more space between me and the car in front of me and the trucks inevitably see it as an invitation to spontaneously change lanes. On a normal day this game is annoying at its worst but on an icy day after dark it can cause me a great deal of anxiety particularly if I’m on a time constraint.
While I didn’t have a time constraint for Philly, I did have one for reaching Harrisburg. There is a Costco there that is only 1 ½ miles off the highway and I knew it closed at 9pm. One thing I’ve learned in my travels is that stopping for gas at Costco is not only cheaper but safer. Why this matters is another story and perhaps I’ll make it a future blog.
We finally got off our exit from I80 and headed south down 144 to US 322 which goes past Bellefonte, and Lewistown before heading into Harrisburg. The part between I80 and Lewistown has always been in my opinion the most dangerous stretch of the journey, mostly because of the ridiculously steep hills and 2 lane roads with truck speeds of only 25mph.
As I made my way south the freezing rain stopped and traffic slowly disappeared because it was now past rush hour and most people were home with their families. I had my daughter look up how far out we were from Harrisburg to see if we were going to make it before they closed and it looked as if we would make it with 15 minutes to spare. We were now back on a 4 lane hwy with no traffic and no ice, so I could finally relax.

Then it happened……

The number 1 thing I dread the most when driving.

More than breaking down in the middle of no where.

More than being pulled over by a State Patrol officer.

More than having a car full of kids start puking as I drive down the road……

A DEER!

Yes I know a deer……

It happens all the time, in fact over 1.5 million times each year in the US.
But for me…..this was the 7th deer I’ve hit and I live in Ohio which is not even ranked in the top ten worst states for hitting a deer. Pennsylvania however is ranked # 3 which is where I was on this fateful night.
As I watch the video now from my dash cam the split second I had to react seems so much quicker than it had the night of the accident. My mind had quickly calculated the risk of swerving and even though my foot hit the brakes it did so after the point of impact. The second in time seemed more like ten in my mind with each stride of the deer moving in slow motion. I had closed my eyes in anticipation of the airbags being deployed, remembering all too well the sting of the airbags from previous encounters with these four legged creatures. My daughter however kept hers open and later told me how she thought she saw the head fly off of the deer.

The shock doesn’t get any easier and a quick evaluation of my car revealed that it was totaled. I knew I wouldn’t be fixing it or even driving it home. It’s funny how attached you can become to your car. I had only had this one 18 months but suddenly and unexpectedly was being forced to say goodbye hundreds of miles from home. The tears were starting to fall for any number of reasons. The old me would’ve fought them off to keep control and do what I needed to do but I’ve learned that for me anyhow it’s better to let them fall. If I do my mind will think clearer and I will keep my perspective on what really matters.
My daughter called 911 for help while I tried to figure out our exact location. The closest town on google maps was Mexico. I knew we were close to Mifflentown but didn’t remember ever seeing signs for a town called Mexico in all of my trips, but yet that is what showed up on my map. I checked to make sure my location was on and it was. While we waited for the police to show up I called my insurance agent and was reminded that I did not have rental coverage. I remembered why too. I owned 3 cars so if something happened I would simply get a ride home and drive a different one. I never anticipated having an accident 5 hours away from home. I don’t do a lot of traveling and statistics show that most accidents happen within 10 miles of home so it didn’t make sense to pay for rental coverage. But now it was 8pm and I was 5 hours from anyone I knew who could give me a ride anywhere.

The tow truck driver was willing to drop us off at the Mc Donald’s at the next exit and when I asked him if there was some place we could get a rental car his response was that we could call a taxi.  A taxi from where? was all I could think  and then how much was that going to cost? we were still an hour away from Harrisburg.   I looked for a hotel thinking that maybe things would look better in the morning but there were no hotels and the lovely Mc Donald’s closed at Midnight.  That meant that even if someone back home got in their car and drove out they wouldn’t make it before Mc Donald’s closed.

I was trying hard to stay calm as panic was welling up inside.  I was reminding myself of all the other times God has provided for me and looked out for me.  I didn’t know where my daughter and I were going to find shelter that night.  I thought of Mary and Joseph on their journey so many years ago.  God was going to have to do what He does best because there wasn’t anything I could do.  While I was praying inside and quoting scriptures to myself my daughter was busying messaging on her phone and before long had a partial solution to our dilemma.  An old roommate from a previous year at school was from Lancaster PA, she had a little sister who was willing to drive 1 1/2 hours to pick us up from Mc Donald’s and give us ride to her parents house in Lancaster.

I was so thankful for a ride anywhere and this ride was even in the direction that we needed to go.  I was further humbled by their willingness to put us up for the night.  I was so exhausted that I was willing to crash on a couch or even the floor at this point.  My heart was raw with emotion unsure of how were going to finish our journey or what I was even going to do once I returned home.

Upon arriving at their home we were not given couch to crash on or even a spare room.  What we graciously given was the master bedroom.  I looked at the wonderfully large bathtub that I so badly wanted crawl into and my heart melted.  As I looked around this home the walls within my heart were crumbling and I couldn’t even put into words why.  I sank into a bed that night that was as comfortable as my own bed back home.

The next morning I woke up and wandered out to the kitchen to find a canister of piping hot coffee waiting for me.  I sat down and began my hunt for a rental car.  I discovered that rental car companies don’t really like to let you take their cars to another town.  I could find one easily if I was going to return it to Lancaster but since I wanted to return it in Ohio they didn’t have any available.  When I was finally able to locate a place that would allow me to take one to Ohio it was going to cost me $236 for 24 hours.  That meant I had to finish the drive to Philadelphia unload my daughter and make the drive back to Bowling Green OH within 24 hours.  I had no idea how I was going to make the journey but I was confident that God did.

My daughter and I gathered our belongings and prepared to leave.  A short while later Freda the mother of my daughters friend, the woman who opened up her home to us, the woman who chose to sleep in her daughters bed and gave us her bed, the woman who graciously prepared me a canister of coffee that morning.  Freda didn’t stop there, she then took us to the café that she manages and served us some wonderful breakfast before dropping us off at the rental car store.

Freda was light to us during those hours, she was the embodiment of Christ and exemplified what it is to be the hands and feet of Christ.  She opened her home to practically strangers and didn’t give us her left overs or spares.  She gave us her best,  all that she had and all that was to give she shared openly.  I’m not sure I’ve been given a more precious gift than that.  I’ve had other people give for me but usually they have plenty to give or it’s and extra something that they don’t need.

This was different.  God’s hands were in complete control the whole time and provided for me the best.  Better than any insurance company could’ve ever provided for me.  I thought of how often I’ve seen Christians give to give but is it really giving when there is no sacrifice?  Is it tithe if its out of your left overs?  God wants our first fruits the best that we have to offer not what we don’t need.  I am still in awe of what this woman did. I am humbled by how she allowed God to use her to shine brightly a message I so desperately needed to see and hear.  A message that said I am valuable, important, cherished, worthy and loved.

I just want to challenge you the next time you see a need that you don’t give out of your left overs but rather give sacrificially and just see if God does a miracle in the life of someone else.

Proverbs 3:9

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.

 

 

 

 

 

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Surrender 2017

My word for the year was surrender.

And here I am December 31, 2017 and I am surrendering to the fact that I’m not any closer to knowing what I’m going to write than I was on Jan 1, 2017.

I know that true surrender requires me to relentlessly trust God. It was only through trusting God that I was able to surrender anything these last 12 months.

I used to have a negative connotation of the word surrender because I always thought of loss. Like at the end of a battle when the losing side surrenders to the winner or turning over a possession when you can no longer make the payments to the bank. Those are both situations where surrender is not necessarily voluntary but rather forced. This type of surrender leaves me feeling depressed and discouraged.

I’ve realized though that this is not the surrender that God desires from me. He is not forcing me to bring him my problems. I have the choice to keep them and I hate to admit that I do more often than I should. I’ve learned that surrender can be positive as long as I have the right perspective. For example when I surrender my financial information to a trusted accountant to file my taxes. The burden is then off of me and when I transfer the burden to someone I trust it is a relief.

So why is surrender so difficult? Because it requires me to actively trust God and that is so much harder than I would like to admit. Trusting God requires that I believe what the Bible says about God. That God has good plans for me even when it doesn’t look good. So next year my word is believe! I’m going to focus on believing what I know to be true and not on what I feel. I’ve learned that what I believe is more powerful than what I know and if I’m going to be able to surrender some of my burdens I have to believe!

Love Me!

God,

I need you to love me.

I need to see it.

I know you say your there but I can’t see you

I can’t feel you

and I can’t hear you.

I’m tired!

I don’t need people telling me things I already know.

I need you to love me where I am, not where I should be.

I need to see you with these crappy eyes that don’t see well,

the ones you saw fit to create me with.

I need to hear you with my ears,

not the thoughts in my head that say….

I’ll never be good enough.

You said I didn’t have to be

so where are you?

You said you were there for me and that you would never leave me.

Child like faith….

so simple

Believe in what I cannot see or hear or feel.

So I won’t look for you

Won’t listen

Won’t feel.

I’ll just know

That you are here in my darkest hour.

You know exactly how I feel with out saying a word.

So I’m trusting you to love me the way I need to be loved even if don’t know what that is.

No Threats!

I woke up this morning and my phone was telling me that it scanned the Bible and found no threats.   I have to admit I smiled!

I found myself thinking about it quite a bit today; mostly because there was a point in my life where I couldn’t read my Bible without feeling defeated.

I knew about God’s grace but believed that because I was a christian I should be able to be “perfect” but perfection was elusive to my grasp.  I found it slipping away no matter how hard I tried.  I wanted nothing more than to please God, but every time I turned around it seemed as though I had failed.  I even thought that maybe I wasn’t really a christian and perhaps I should try asking Jesus to be my savior again.

I told myself I was silly with those thoughts but the feelings of defeat and despair haunted me.  Until I learned…….

That God’s grace goes forward just as much as it goes backwards.

No this is not a license to go do whatever I want and it doesn’t mean that I won’t reap what I sow.  What it does do is remove the fear of failure!  Rather than being concerned about doing the right thing in every situation I am free to be me and can accept my imperfections knowing that God is perfecting me over time not instantly…..

Now I read the Bible and rather than seeing a list of rules to live by I see advice that if I choose to follow will help me prosper.  This doesn’t mean life will always work out when I do the right thing but my chance to succeed will be greater if I do it God’s way.

So my smile this morning was because I know the Bible holds hundreds of little secrets to help me live my life better.  Secrets that God reveals to me exactly when I need to know them.  Secrets that heal the broken parts of my life and bring life to the dead.  Secrets that spare me pain and most of all bring me joy when nothing else can.

So the thought of the Bible threatening me was actually funny and I caught a glimpse of my own growth over the last five years.

 

 

 

 

Standing In Victory

My homework this weekend was to do something fun for me.

No chores

No cleaning

No should be doing

But fun and relaxing for me…….

1Peter 5:8

Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

The devil found me right before I was walking out the door for a time of fellowship with other women.  I went with  a tear stained face and forced my mind beyond the things I could not control.

People will say things and make accusations that are not true.  The devil will always try to stop you from doing the things that are going to make you stronger.  He doesn’t want you to rise from the ashes and the further down you have been the more dangerous you are to him.  I’m refusing to allow the enemy to keep me in hiding.

I’m choosing to live my life and not hide.  I’m exploring new things not just for me but for my children because they learn by example.

So today I’m clinging to theses scriptures

Isaiah54:15-17

If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;whoever attacks you will surrender to you.  See it is I (God) who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work.  And it is I (God) who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and this is their vindication from me declares the Lord.

I alone cannot stand but with God I can move mountains.  The enemy can come knocking at my door carrying with him shackles and chains seeking to steal my freedom but I have a choice.  I can surrender to the enemy or choose to stand with a Savior that loves me more than I can comprehend.  I will trust him to keep his promises in

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known , along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

The enemy is intent on chasing me off the path God has for me and I can change where I run.  I can’t change where I swim and I already do my best to swim at different times.  As far as where I bike I don’t have a clue so when the warm weather comes and I pull it out I’m taking off and trusting God down unfamiliar paths.  I’m not sure if I’ll tackle a triathlon but I’m willing to explore new things with my children trusting that God has my back.

I could run away and try to hide from people.  I could stop going places that bring me life because some people don’t want to see me.  But that is not my problem.  Sadly it reveals more about them than it does me.  I have nothing to hide and if others could see beyond their own chains that bind them they would see me for who I am and not as an enemy but as a friend.

So  my assignment was to do something fun for me this weekend and the enemy has been waging war with me up to this point.  Now I will stand in victory and resume my life.  I will get dressed and go down to my favorite little coffee shop; there  I will sit down at the puzzle table and talk to the people that join me.  Then I will plan to make fun things happen in my future.  I will choose to get up Monday morning and swim so I can continue to grow stronger.  I will remember 2Tim 1:7 that God has not given me a timid spirit but one of Power Love and of sound mind.

And lastly I will remember you…..  as a reader I pray that you find encouragement and not judgement in the things that you read here.  That if your here as a friend God would use the things you learn about me to grow your compassion for others.  If your here as my enemy I still pray for you that God would open your eyes to see the truth and reveal the shackles in your own life that have created the illusion that I am some how an enemy.  I pray that you find peace in the situations that your are seeking to run or hide from through Ps 85:10 Mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.  I have pondered this verse and explored other versions to truly understand its meaning and have concluded that when we discover the truth about a situation and can look at circumstances through God’s unfailing steadfast love showing mercy we will find righteousness and have peace about anything.  That my friend is my prayer for you.

 

Fearlessly Living In 2016

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That was the word God gave me at the start of this year.

I had all of these ideas of what I thought God was going to do this year to make me fearless but I quickly realized I had no clue what I was in for.  I’ve been surprised by the direction God has taken me the last twelve months and have been blessed through the journey  in so many ways that I thought I would share.

Over the course of the year I encountered many fears.  I experienced the fear of serious illness with my daughter, the fear of driving after having 3 accidents in 4 weeks, the fear of spiders, the fear of swimming, the fear of judgement, the fear of rejection, and the hardest one is the fear of being loved.

I cannot say that I conquered all of my fears but I can say that I learned a lot about them and that they don’t have the same power to control me like they did previously.  I originally thought that by some miracle God was going to give me the strength to face my fears, but that was not the case.  My fears were all still there…..but what God did do was reveal to me truths about  what I feared and why I feared it.  He then reminded me of his truth that gave me the strength I needed to face those fears.  God then gave me opportunities to walk out what he was teaching me by placing me in situations that allowed me to choose courage over paralyzing fear.

I learned that fear reveals what I value or feel that I need.  For example the fear of illness would show that I value my health or the fear of rejection shows that I value being accepted.  The fear of failure reveals my desire for perfection and so on.

My fear can also tell me how much or how little I trust God.  Scripture tells us that we are to fear God and only God.  When I allow myself to fear other things I am doing one of two things.  I am either valuing whatever it is I fear losing more than I value God or I am essentially telling God I don’t trust you to provide what I need.

So all of this brought up some questions…….

Is it wrong to value health, acceptance and perfection?

During the course of the year I learned that perhaps it’s how much I fear.  Fear can be healthy and keep me from harm.  For example the fear of being sick makes me wash my hands, but if the fear of being sick keeps me from ever leaving my house then I wouldn’t be trusting God.  This concept works for some fears that can be explained but what about the fears that can’t be explained?

There are real fears that can be logically explained and are generally accepted by other people.  Then there are fears that aren’t logical that can’t be explained.  I learned that just because it can’t be explained doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be listened to for example..

I faced a fear this year by agreeing to meet with someone who claimed that they just wanted to meet with me to get to know me better.  I was unsettled about the meeting and I didn’t understand why.  So I prayed……and right before I walked into the meeting God reminded me of Ps91.

The meeting turned out to be an attack and I was face to face with  the very real fear of judgement from church leadership and the rejection of a community of people who were supposed to love me as Christ loves us.    I chose courage that day! I didn’t run out the door in shame.  I asked what my sin was.  What was the reason behind their decision to tell me that I was no longer allowed to participate in any of their church events on or off of their property?  I was told that I was making bad choices….the example I was given was that I sat in the wrong row on Sunday morning, I had a divisive spirit but couldn’t tell me what made me divisive and had a habit of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I started to defend myself and then I remembered Ps91 and stopped.  I chose courage and surrendered the battle to God.

I then asked if this meant that no one at the church wanted to be my friend.  I was told that everyone loved me and that they were praying for me.  That leaving is the best thing for me and that they would be praying that there was another church somewhere in town that I could belong to.  I wanted to run before they could see me cry but instead I chose courage!

I sat there and didn’t just cry I sobbed and when they tried to touch me I asked them not to.  When they asked me to leave I didn’t.  I chose courage!

The courage to feel the pain and courage to let them see the pain they had inflicted upon me.  They crushed my heart in the name of God as if he willed what they were doing to me.  As they prayed for me to know who I was in Christ I was praying that God would reveal his truth to them.  I knew who I was in Christ and I didn’t need to be reminded.  I knew that the God I knew was not standing in agreement with what they were doing.  God’s heart was breaking with mine and while every thought of who they thought I was flashed through my mind attacking my soul, I was reminded of a vision I had back in 2012.  In my vision I was being attacked by evil spirits and every time they came at me there was something behind me guiding me in how to swing my sword.  The experience was effortless and I had no fear.  So I reached for my sword and the let Spirit of God guide me through each attack in my mind. When I was finished I did get up and leave but I didn’t get in my car.  I chose courage!

I called a friend who came and I shared what happened.  Shame and fear would’ve kept me from telling anyone at all.  I then chose courage by allowing her to follow me home to make sure I made it there safely.  I allowed her to love me.

Hiding my pain from those who have hurt me only serves my pride and enables them to walk away without guilt and the notion that they are doing the right thing.  I have not returned to that church because the fear is real and I have no desire to be attacked again.  This is a healthy fear that I need to listen to.  I don’t need to be right in their eyes……I only have to respond in love and when the flesh is crying for justice sometimes the courageous response is to run away and let God take care of them.

Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I had listened to my fear and refused to meet with them.  I may not have been attacked that day but that doesn’t mean something wouldn’t have happened eventually.  I don’t regret going or see my decisions as a mistake, I see it growing my faith because I saw God there with me.  He was giving me what I needed in that moment even if I didn’t see it until later.

So another lesson I’ve learned is that even if there is a fear that can’t be logically explained it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t run from it.  God will allow me to feel fear to keep me from a dangerous situation that I may not have any knowledge of.  I don’t have to know what the danger is I only have to trust God when I feel that fear in my spirit.

As this year comes to an end I know that I am not a pro at dealing with fear but I can say that I am better than I was a year ago.  I’ve returned to running where I feel the safest and logically makes sense and I don’t avoid doing things simply because I fear what other people may or may not think of me.  I have more confidence in my ability in knowing when to run and when to face my fears.  I am proud of the growth I have made regardless of what everyone else sees and that is all that matters.  So as I was looking to next year and contemplate what my word for the year will be one came to my mind…..surrender.  Not to be confused with giving up.  Then I asked a close friend what she thought my word for the year should be and she said Trust.  Someone else said relentless.  And I’ve been thinking about how I have not returned to church anywhere and have no plans to look anymore.  I am surrendering that to God.  I am trusting him to bring people into my life who will invite me into their church community because they want me there not because I’m searching for something that I think I need.  Surrender comes when I trust so maybe it should be two words RELENTLESS TRUST because in order to surrender I will have to relentlessly trust over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How’s Your Month Going?

I picked up my daughter from school and when she got in the car  I informed her that we had to go pick up Star (our cat) from the vet.  She instantly asked why? and I cringed trying to decide how honest I should be.

I went with complete honesty hoping that God would give me the grace and wisdom to guide my 10yr old daughter through more bad news.

I looked at her and told her that I had run over Star pulling into the garage that morning and he took off.

Her face quickly turned to a look of horror and I quickly told her that he was ok and we were going to pick him up.

As I pulled out of the school parking lot I heard her exclaim that February was a crappy month and that she couldn’t wait for March to get here.

I understood more than she knew because I had the same conversation with God early that morning.  I had told God that I thought February was a cursed month for me. I was trying to understand how any good could possibly come from losing our beloved Star.  I knew that I had completely run over him.  I heard the howl and fully expected to have to clean up his body from under the car.  So when he wasn’t there all I could think was that he wouldn’t make it far and would more than likely bleed out somewhere close by.  I tried calling and searching for him not because I thought I could do anything but so I could tell him I was sorry and allow the kids to bury him.  I left the house that morning heart broken trying to figure out how to tell the kids and what exactly to tell them.  I knew that if I ever saw him again it would be a miracle so when I arrived home that afternoon to see him trying to make his way across the driveway to me  I broke down crying.  I scooped him up and went straight to the vet.  I told them what happened and that I couldn’t afford to do a life saving surgery but if by some miracle he had a chance of surviving on his own then I would take him home.  I just didn’t want him to suffer a long slow death so if he was seriously injured and slowly dying I wanted to put him down.  I left the vet that afternoon still trying to figure out what to tell my children.

An hour later I received a call from the vet to inform me that Star had no internal bleeding and doesn’t appear to have any broken bones.  He  is very sore but he is getting around on his own so he should recover.

That’s when I heard God answer my question……..

I turned around and looked at my daughter and said

If all of those crappy things hadn’t happened this month we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience God’s miracles for ourselves.  So maybe February is a month of miracles and we are blessed to have had the opportunity to experience them.  Perhaps the greatest thing we can do now is share with others the things that God has done for us.

Her little face softened as she realized the truth of my words and then began talking about our miracles….

Her mom was alive! ( I had 2 car accident’s within 4 days… the second was very serious)

God sent people in our paths to help when we needed it the most.

Her pet baby bearded dragon was alive ( his eye exploded while sitting on her lap and was bleeding out his head)

I don’t know what your month has been like but I hope you can find encouragement and perhaps a new perspective if it has been a difficult one.  Paul warns us of the trials that we will face and reminds us to work at staying faithful and trusting God to know what he’s doing even when we can’t see it.  I’m not worried about next month or even how I’ll replace my cars because what matters most is what I believe about God.

I believe God is good and I hope you do too!

 

 

Falling in Love in 2015

I was looking back at this year and realized that I fell into love…. not with a mortal man but with something so much greater.

I have faced unimaginable heart break and walked a fair amount of my journey alone with only the knowledge of God’s presence…..  but I have discovered what it is to love as Christ first loved me.   Its not about being loved by those around me.  It’s not about doing the right things to show my love.  It’s not about feeling loved or even others acknowledging the love I give to them.

I want to share how I fell into love this year, mostly because I know that the one thing everyone craves is love and it has been the only way that the desire has been met for me.

1 John 4:10

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Love isn’t just something that I’m called to give but rather receive.  When I receive God’s love my heart changes in ways that I could never accomplish on my own.

vs 16

God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are to be like JESUS.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment!

When I fully receive God’s love I’m living in Him and I am made complete giving me the confidence that on judgement day there will be no punishment for me.  There is no punishment in his love….so I have no fear!  What a beautiful thought…..

Hebrews 12: 5-6

My child,

Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

  and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and He corrects everyone he accepts as his child.

God disciplines or teaches me molding me into the likeness of him.  Punishment is causing meaningless suffering out of revenge………          not love.  Just as God loves me through people he will discipline me through people and if I am to love others I am called to discipline and correct others.

1 John 4:19

We love because He first loved us…….

It is only because I have seen and experienced Gods love for myself that I am able to love others.  The fruit of which is

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love does not envy….boast… proud….dishonor others…..self seeking… easily angered….keep record of wrongs…delight in  evil.

Love is….Patient….Kind….Rejoices in truth….Protects…..                    Always Hopes…. Always Perseveres….Most importantly

LOVE NEVER FAILS

I few years ago I shared how God had used the previous years struggles to show me his love for me through the people he brought into my life.  The hardships I faced forced me to reach out to others and allowed me to experience Gods love in a way that I never had before.  I knew of His love and believed in it but I had not experienced it through the people around me that way until I came face to face with my past.

Early on in that experience I didn’t understand what was going on inside of me.  I couldn’t see what God was doing to me, how he was molding me so that I could love others as He first loved me.  I tried to keep the people around me that I thought should love me and there was a part of me that knew they couldn’t love me in the way that I craved.  I thought that if God used people then I had to figure out how to keep those people who I thought would love me in my life.  That was stressful and scary.  I found myself anxious, worried and fearful for the first time of what others thought of me.  I knew that I shouldn’t be, but I couldn’t understand where this fear had come from.  I found myself wanting to test people to see if they would stick around.  No one had ever cared enough to stick around so why would these people.  I wanted to see how far I could push boundaries because I had never come close to anyone’s boundaries before.  When you never let anyone close to you and you never get close to anyone else it is impossible to cross a boundary.  Subconsciously I was sabotaging relationships to see if anyone really wanted or cared to be there for me.  I didn’t want to be someone’s project or someone who was loved out of obligation because it was the Christ like thing to do.  I honestly didn’t believe anyone was capable of loving me just for me.  That anyone would want to have anything to do with me once they knew the things I really struggled with.

I wanted people to want to do things with me….not because I asked but because they genuinely loved spending time with me.  I’m not sure if that ever really happened.  There was a point where I thought it did happen and with a small group of people I let a small piece of me shine.  I had begun to believe that some of them were sincere in the things they said and did.  I was experiencing a feeling that I hadn’t really felt before and it was so precious to me that it terrified me.  I thought that for the first time I was feeling truly loved and accepted by others.  Inside I was scared that it would be wrong because people shouldn’t have the ability to make me feel so good.  God was the only one who should make me feel that way.  When I tried to talk to a few people about it I was sadly misunderstood.  I walked away condemning myself for something that was a gift from God to be cherished and shared with others.  I actually believed that I didn’t know how to love right…..sounds silly I know…..but if you’ve never walked in my shoes you wouldn’t understand and to walk in my shoes you would have to know my story.  I’m not sure any of those people in that small group really knew me or even cared to. What I have come to know is that for the first time I was connecting with people on a level that I never had allowed myself to in the past.  That feeling was from being accepted as part of a family, a sense of belonging and most importantly not being alone.  Was I feeling love?  I don’t know and I’m not sure that I really care.

Sadly I was so conflicted  with what I should be doing, or even worse, what I should be feeling so that I wouldn’t lose them….. because I was told I needed them and without them God couldn’t love me.  I needed to make those relationships work but it turns out all my effort was in vain and I think its pretty safe to say that I have lost all of those relationships in the last year.  I could be wrong…. and I’m not dead so there is time for things to change.  I know that I have changed a lot in the last year and that other people change too.  I also know that God is bigger than all of this mess.

I’ve watched God use this to take me places I would’ve never gone to otherwise.  When I first left last January it wasn’t meant to be a Goodbye.  I was loving them as Christ first loved me.  Sometimes that love is painful and looks more like discipline.  It may not have been my choice to leave but it is my choice to return.  I’ve found healing these last 11 months and have grown in ways that I never would have had I stayed and simply kept my mouth shut.

The word I thought God had for me in 2015 was forgiveness.  Now that I’ve reached the end I realize that while I learned a lot about forgiveness I learned even more about LOVE.  I thought I needed to forgive but I had already forgiven the people who hurt me.  I wanted them to understand my pain not because they could fix any of the damage done to me but so they could learn and be able to help others like me without doing more damage.

Learning to rest in the knowledge of God’s love for me has released me from the anxiety and worry of what others think of me.  I am no longer disappointed by those around me nor do I look to them to justify myself.  There are still many days that I spiral down and things set me back but God always pulls me back to his truth.  Love is everything,  the most important gift I can receive and offer to others.  It is only because of Love that I am able to be fearless where I was once fearful.

The word I believe God has for me for 2016 is FEARLESS!  I believe God wants me to learn to step out and face some of my worst fears and the only way I can accomplish that is by relying on the knowledge of His love for me and what it means for me.    I’m sure I’ll make mistakes and fall more than a few times but I know he’ll be there to pick me up with or without people in my life.

The last verse I would like to share with you is

2Timothy 1:7

For He has not given me a Spirit of timidity but rather one of Power, Love, and of Sound Mind.

God has blessed me with the gift of the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit he reveals knowledge of who He is, which in turn gives me the Power that allows me to Love and have a sound mind.  This verse has become a foundational rock for my spiritual journey.  As I look to this next year my goal is simple ….. rest in the knowledge of Gods Love for me and not run in fear from the Love he is trying to bless me with.  I don’t know if it will be new people or people from the past but if the Spirit leads me I will have nothing to fear.11951370_10206212650048639_4150848054172693234_n

 

 

Thank You …….For The Little Things……….. That Matter To Me

I heard some dj’s talking on the radio this week and they were asking the listeners when the last time was that they had experienced God? How did I as a listener know that God was real and alive? And what was the evidence that I had seen of his existence?   Now just in case your wondering this was christian radio.

One of the dj’s experienced God’s amazing power over the weekend and he wanted others to share their stories so that other listeners could be encouraged.  So this immediately brought to mind several stories that I have tucked away but since he asked for the most recent one that is the one I will share.

About a month ago my daughter convinced me to let her purchase a baby bearded dragon.  Now I was not crazy about the idea for several reasons.

1   I already feed 3 children and 2 outdoor cats why do I want to add a reptile who eats bugs to the mix?

2   They are creatures that need heat and more than I like to provide in the winter in Ohio.

3   Who is going to pay for it?

4   It means I will have to learn about them…….because I will end up having to take care of it at some point.

Long story short here….. she convinced me when she showed me a video proving that they eat wolf spiders!

I absolutely hate spiders so anything that would take care of them for me becomes my best friend. hmmm (I wish I could put a smiley here but I don’t know how….sad face here!)     This how Maleficent came to be part of our family.

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She is a tiny thing still and loves to be with someone.  If she is left alone too long she gets stressed and I’ve discovered sunlight is much better for her than the lamps you buy at the store.  Because of this I have started taking her around with me particularly when I am outside so that she gets sunlight.  I have learned a lot from this little lizard in the last 4 weeks and have grown quite fond of her.  I’ve wondered why God created this particular creature and his motive or reasoning behind it…..until last Thursday.

I had gotten home from working that morning and I only had a short amount of time to get a lot done before I had to leave again.  I quickly turned on the stove to warm up some food for lunch and then I went and picked up Mel (that’s what we call her for short).  I placed her on my shoulder tucked just under the edge of my jacket since it was a little chilly outside.  I then headed outside to hang some clothes on the line so that they would dry.  I had gotten about half of the basket up when I remembered I had turned on the stove and started my lunch.   I took off running for the house figuring it would be filled with smoke and I would be cleaning my pan instead of eating.  I was blessed and my food was ok…not burnt!

But wait!

Where is Mel?

Crap! What if I dropped her?

I’ve carried her all over and she is really good about hanging on.  But I can’t find her…

I quickly look on the floor between me and the door and no sign.

I run outside to the clothes line looking and calling like she would actually come….(she is too little yet to do that)

I run back inside to stand in front of the mirror.  Maybe she is in my hair and I can’t see her?

I quickly take off my jacket, turn it inside out.  Off goes my shirt and I’m looking in the mirror to see if she is hanging on somewhere and I’m just missing her.

No Mel…..my daughter is going to kill me.

How am I going to find her?

I ran to the front door,  took 3 steps off the side of the porch….then I stopped and look out into the yard.  The path I had taken from the clothes line to the house was covered with leaves.  There were leaves everywhere yellow and brown the same color as her, not to mention she is only 6 inches long.  If she was out there she was going to be difficult to find.  These lizards don’t make noise and I’ve learned that they like to hide.

So I did what I do so frequently when I lose my keys.  I said….. God you know where she is.  You know how important she has become to us.  You know how heartbroken my daughter will be if I don’t find her and you know how sad I will be that it was my fault.  You also know how much fun I have had with her and how she has slowly warmed my heart.  Help me find her please.

I started to turn back to the house and for whatever reason I picked up my left foot.  There underneath my foot was Mel!  She was right in the arch of my foot and her little face was looking up at me.  If she could talk I wondered what she would say.

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That experience had God written all over it.  The first time I ran into the house I kicked off my flip flops…..If I hadn’t done that she would be dead!  But God knew what he was doing.  He knew how impossible finding her in all those leaves were and he also knew how perfectly my foot would land on top of her so that I would find her but that she wouldn’t be hurt.

How perfect is that?

God also answered my questioned….He created them for enjoyment……To play with and have fun.

He also revealed something else…cold blooded animals need warmth to stay warm, they reflect the temperature just like we reflect God.  Without God touching us….giving us light….warming our hearts…..

We would be cold and dead inside.

1John 4: 16-17

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love.

Whoever lives in love, lives in God

and God in him.

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement

because in this world we are like him.

Happy Birthday To Me!

Dear God,

I am so thankful for me!

The way that you have created me

The family that you have given me

How I look when you look at me

The things that I love to do

and the things I hate to do.

The things that bring tears to my eyes

and the things that bring life to my eyes!

All of these things are a part of who I am and who you have made me to be.

YOU have molded me and shaped me into who I am today….

Right now………in this place in time.

I want to thank you God

For the life I’ve lived thus far

For the good times and the not so good

For the things that have made me laugh to the things that have scared my heart.

I may not be perfect but I am……… perfectly broken just for you

You’ve taken all my pieces and your placing them right where you want them to be

Your turning me into who you’ve always wanted me to be

rather than who I’ve tried to be.

So today Lord

As I celebrate the gift of life

I want to thank you for

Creating me,

Loving me

and Most of all NEVER giving up on me.

I don’t have any Birthday wishes this year.   My only request is that if your going to say Happy Birthday please tell me something I’ve said or done that has touched your heart.

What do you think of….. when you think of me?

What is it that would remind you of me…… if I were to die tomorrow?

Please don’t wait till I’m gone to say the things you wish you’d said when I was alive.

Don’t save the best for last……..because it may never be heard.

And if you don’t know me then do this for someone you do know……..someone you love.

Don’t assume that they already know…….what if they don’t?

The greatest gift you can give someone on their Birthday is the knowledge that they are valuable, appreciated and loved for who they are.

Once a year everyone needs a little reminding of what it is that makes them special.

Anyone can say Happy Birthday! But only a friend can tell you what it is about you that cannot be replaced by another.

Remind them of their value and purpose, that is beyond what they can see.Birthday Quotes 1

So lets tell one another what it is that we enjoy about each other rather than assuming they know!